Sussex County, Delaware
Sussex County, Delaware
Sussex County Courthouse, Georgetown.jpg
Sussex County Courthouse in Georgetown, Delaware
Seal of Sussex County, Delaware
Map of Delaware highlighting Sussex County
Location in the state of Delaware
Map of the U.S. highlighting Delaware
Delaware's location in the U.S.
Founded 1683
Seat Georgetown
Largest city Milford (partial) Seaford (whole)
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

1,195.65 sq mi (3,097 km²)
937.58 sq mi (2,428 km²)
258.07 sq mi (668 km²), 21.58%
 - (2010)
 - Density

210/sq mi (81.1/km²)
Congressional district At-large

Sussex County is a county located in the southern part of the U.S. state of Delaware. As of 2010 the population was 197,145, an increase of 25.9% over the previous decade.[1] The county seat is Georgetown. The Seaford Micropolitan Statistical Area includes all of Sussex County.

Sussex County is Delaware's largest county by land area, with 938 square miles (2,429 km2). The first European settlement in the state of Delaware was founded in 1631 near the present-day town of Lewes. However, Sussex County was not organized until 1683.




Archaeologists estimate that the first inhabitants of Sussex County, the southernmost county in Delaware, arrived between 10,000 and 14,000 years ago. Native Americans in Sussex County called themselves by the various tribal names of the Algonquin Nation. The most prominent tribes in the area were the Leni Lenape and Nanticoke tribes. The people settled along the numerous bodies of water in the area where they were able to harvest fish, oysters, and other shellfish in the fall and winter. In the warmer months they planted crops, and hunted deer and other small mammals as larger game was not present in the area.

European Discovery

There is no universally agreed upon group known to be the first to settle in Sussex County. In the early years of exploration, from 1593 to 1630, many feel the Spanish or Portuguese were probably the first Europeans to see the Delaware River and the lands of present day Sussex County.

Henry Hudson, on his expedition for the Dutch West India Company, discovered the Delaware River in 1609. Attempting to following him, Samuel Argall, an English explorer, was blown off course in 1610 and landed in a strange bay that he named after the Governor of Virginia, Thomas West, Lord De La Warr.

In the first half of 1613, Cornelius Jacobsen Mey, a Dutch navigator, discovered and named both Cape May, New Jersey and Cape Henlopen, (originally Hindlopen) in the Delaware Bay. Later it was found that what May had named Henlopen, was actually Fenwick Island protruding into the Atlantic Ocean, and the name of the cape was moved to its present location just east of Lewes.

European Settlement

Sussex County was the site of the first European settlement in Delaware, a trading post named Zwaanendael at the present site of Lewes. On June 3, 1631, Dutch captain David Pietersen de Vries landed along the shores of the Delaware to establish a whaling colony in the mid-Atlantic of the New World. The colony only lasted until 1632, when De Vries left. Upon returning to Zwaanendael that December, he found the Indian tribes had killed his men and burned the colony. The Dutch then set about settling the area once again.

The original boundaries were undefined with boundary disputes between the family of William Penn, who claimed the county extended to Fenwick Island, and Charles Calvert, 5th Baron Baltimore, who claimed the county ended at Lewes with all the land south of that belonging to Somerset County.[2] Maryland and Pennsylvania both claimed the land between the 39th and 40th parallels according to the charters granted to each colony. The 'Three Lower Counties' (Delaware) along Delaware Bay moved into the Penn sphere of settlement, and later became the Delaware Colony, a satellite of Pennsylvania.

In 1732 the proprietary governor of Maryland, Charles Calvert, signed an agreement with William Penn's sons which drew a line somewhere in between, and also renounced the Calvert claim to Delaware. But later Lord Baltimore claimed that the document he signed did not contain the terms he had agreed to, and refused to put the agreement into effect. Beginning in the mid-1730s, violence erupted between settlers claiming various loyalties to Maryland and Pennsylvania. The border conflict between Pennsylvania and Maryland would be known as Cresap's War.

The issue was unresolved until the Crown intervened in 1760, ordering Frederick Calvert, 6th Baron Baltimore to accept the 1732 agreement. As part of the settlement, the Penns and Calverts commissioned the English team of Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon to survey the newly established boundaries between the Province of Pennsylvania, the Province of Maryland, Delaware Colony and parts of Colony and Old Dominion of Virginia.

Between 1763 and 1767, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon surveyed the Mason-Dixon line settling Sussex County's western and southern borders. After Pennsylvania abolished slavery in 1781, the western part of this line and the Ohio River became a border between free and slave states, although Delaware remained a slave state.

In 1769 there was a movement started to move the county seat from Lewes to the area then known as Cross Roads, the present day site of Milton. The current county seat of Georgetown was settled upon on January 27, 1791 after residents in western Sussex County successfully petitioned the Delaware General Assembly to move the county seat to a central location as roads at the time made it too difficult to reach the county seat in Lewes.[3] Georgetown was not a previously established town and on May 9, 1791, the 10 commissioners headed by President of the State Senate George Mitchell negotiated the purchase of 76 acres (310,000 m2) and Commissioner Rhodes Shankland began the survey by laying out "a spacious square of 100 yards (91 m) each way." Eventually the Town was laid out in a circle one mile (1.6 km) across, centered on the original square surveyed by Shankland and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Georgetown was named after Senate President George Mitchell.[4]

Sussex County has been known by several names over the years including Susan County, Hoorenkill or Whorekill County as named by the Dutch prior to 1680 when Kent County broke off, Deale County from 1680 to 1682 after being taken over by the British under James Stuart, Duke of York prior to signing over to William Penn, and Durham County when claimed by the Lords Baltimore during the boundary dispute with the Penn family.[5]

Law and government

Sussex county's government is composed of an elected legislature and various elective executive heads of departments.

The county council has five members; all are elected in and for specific geographic subdivisions for four years. This forms the legislative authority of the county, which then chooses a "County Administrator" or executive.

The current county council members are Council President Michael H. Vincent, Vice President Samuel R. Wilson, Vance Phillips, George Cole, and Joan Deaver.

The additional offices of Clerk of the Peace, Register of Deeds, Register of Wills and Sheriff are elected at large.[6] These positions are held by George Parish, Scott Dailey, Cynthia Green, and Jeffrey Christopher, respectively.


Public Schools

Sussex County is served by eight public school districts.[7]

  • Cape Henlopen School District
  • Delmar School District
  • Indian River School District
  • Laurel School District
  • Milford School District (also serves Kent County)
  • Seaford School District
  • Sussex Technical School District (County-wide overlay school district)
  • Woodbridge School District

The county also contains one charter school, the Sussex Academy of Arts & Sciences.[8]

Those state funded public high schools which participate in sporting events are members of the Henlopen Conference.[citation needed]

Private Schools

There are several private schools in Sussex County. The schools include Bible Center Christian Academy (Laurel), Children Craft CO (Seaford), Christian Tabernacle Academy (Lincoln), Destiny Christian School (Georgetown), Eagle's Nest Christian School (Milton), Epworth Christian School (Laurel), Greenwood Mennonite School (Greenwood), Harbor Christian Academy (Ellendale), The Jefferson School (Georgetown), Jesus Is Lord Christian Academy (Georgetown), Lighthouse Christian School (Dagsboro), Lighted Pathway Christian Academy (Seaford), Milford Christian School (Milford) and Seaford Christian Academy (Seaford).[9]

Secondary Schools

There are also several secondary schools in Sussex County. Delaware Technical & Community College has the largest presence in the county, but students can also attend Delaware State University, Goldey-Beacom College, University of Delaware, Wesley College all in Georgetown, the Philadelphia Bible College in Ellendale, and the Beebe Hospital School of Nursing in Lewes. The University of Delaware also maintains a marine science campus in Lewes.


According to the 2000 census, the county has a total area of 1,195.65 square miles (3,096.7 km2), of which 937.58 square miles (2,428.3 km2) (or 78.42%) is land and 258.07 square miles (668.4 km2) (or 21.58%) is water.[10]

The eastern portion of the county is home to most of Delaware's beaches and many seaside resorts. The western side of the county is center of Delaware's agriculture industry with more acres of arable land under cultivation than anywhere else in the state.[citation needed]

Adjacent Counties

¹ across Delaware Bay; no land border

Major highways

There are three major north-south highways in Sussex County:

  • US Route 13 in the west
  • US Route 113 in the middle
  • State Route 1 along the coast

In addition, Sussex has a number of east-west thoroughfares, the primary being U.S. Route 9. State Routes 16, 18, 20, 24, 30, 54 and 404 also service the area, providing alternatives east-west routes to most municipalities in the county.

National protected area


The average home and property price in Sussex County increased 250% in the ten years between 1995 and 2005. Local increases within Sussex County for this period include a 381% increase for Millsboro and a 609% increase for Millville. Sussex County is served by the Delaware Coast Line Railway, the Maryland & Delaware Railway and the Norfolk Southern Railway.[11]


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1790 20,488
1800 19,358 −5.5%
1810 27,750 43.4%
1820 24,057 −13.3%
1830 27,115 12.7%
1840 25,093 −7.5%
1850 25,936 3.4%
1860 29,615 14.2%
1870 31,696 7.0%
1880 36,018 13.6%
1890 38,647 7.3%
1900 42,276 9.4%
1910 46,413 9.8%
1920 43,741 −5.8%
1930 45,507 4.0%
1940 52,502 15.4%
1950 61,336 16.8%
1960 73,195 19.3%
1970 80,356 9.8%
1980 98,004 22.0%
1990 113,229 15.5%
2000 156,638 38.3%
2010 197,145 25.9%

As of the census[15] of 2000, there were 156,638 people, 62,577 households, and 43,866 families residing in the county. The population density was 167 people per square mile (64/km²). There were 93,070 housing units at an average density of 99 per square mile (38/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 80.35% White, 14.89% Black or African American, 0.60% Native American, 0.75% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 2.02% from other races, and 1.35% from two or more races. 4.41% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 14.9% were of English, 14.3% United States or American (Mostly British), 12.9% Irish, 12.5% German and 5.6% Italian ancestry according to Census 2000. 93.3% spoke English and 4.3% Spanish as their first language.

There were 62,577 households out of which 27.10% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.90% were married couples living together, 11.30% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.90% were non-families. 24.30% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.10% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 2.88.

In the county the population was spread out with 22.50% under the age of 18, 7.00% from 18 to 24, 26.30% from 25 to 44, 25.60% from 45 to 64, and 18.50% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 95.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.80 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $39,208, and the median income for a family was $45,203. Males had a median income of $30,811 versus $23,625 for females. The per capita income for the county was $20,328. About 7.70% of families and 10.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.00% of those under age 18 and 8.40% of those age 65 or over.

Cities and towns

Non-Incorporated Communities

Festivals, Fairs, and Events

Sussex County, Delaware is home to several festivals, fairs, and events. Some of the more notable festivals are the Riverfest held in Seaford, the World Championship Punkin Chunkin held at various locations throughout the county since 1986, the Rehoboth Beach Chocolate Festival, the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral to mark the end of summer, the Apple Scrapple Festival held in Bridgeville, the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival, the Sea Witch Halloween Festival and Parade in Rehoboth Beach, the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival the Nanticoke Indian Pow Wow in Oak Orchard, and the Return Day Parade held after elections in even-numbered years in Georgetown.

Media outlets


  • Cape Gazette, Lewes
  • Coastal Point, Ocean View
  • Delaware Coast Press, Rehoboth Beach
  • Delaware Wave, Bethany Beach
  • Hoy en Delaware, Georgetown
  • Laurel Star, Laurel
  • Leader & State Register, Seaford
  • Milford Beacon, Milford
  • Milford Chronicle, Milford
  • Seaford Star, Seaford
  • Sussex Countian, Georgetown
  • Sussex Post, Georgetown
  • The Script, Georgetown (published at various times throughout the school year, stories by DelTech students majoring in communications)

Radio Stations

Call sign Frequency City of License [16][17] Owner [18] Format [18][19]
WAFL 0097.7 FM Milford Delmarva Broadcasting Company Hot Adult Contemporary
WGBG 0098.5 FM Seaford Great Scott Broadcasting Classic Rock
WGMD 0092.7 FM Rehoboth Beach Resort Broadcasting Co., LLC News Talk Information
WJKI 0103.5 FM Bethany Beach Great Scott Broadcasting Classic Rock
WJWK 1280 AM Seaford Great Scott Broadcasting Spanish Variety
WJWL 0900 AM Georgetown Great Scott Broadcasting Spanish Variety
WKDB 0095.3 FM Laurel Great Scott Broadcasting Contemporary Hit Radio
WLBW 0092.1 FM Fenwick Island Clear Channel Communications Oldies
WNCL 0101.3 FM Milford Delmarva Broadcasting Company Oldies
WOCM 0098.1 FM Selbyville Irie Radio, Inc. Album Adult Alternative
WKZP 0095.9 FM Bethany Beach Clear Channel Communications Sports Talk
WRBG-LP 0107.9 FM Millsboro Rhythm and Blues Group Harmonty Association, Inc.
WYUS 0930 AM Milford Delmarva Broadcasting Company Spanish Contemporary
WZBH 0093.5 FM Georgetown Great Scott Broadcasting Active Rock
WZEB 0101.7 FM Ocean View Great Scott Broadcasting Contemporary Hit Radio
WZKT 0105.9 FM Lewes Delmarva Broadcasting Company Country

Television Stations

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Sussex County, Delaware: USGenWeb Project
  3. ^ Sussex County - History
  4. ^ At The Beach-Georgetown, Delaware History
  5. ^ Sussex County, Delaware Genealogical Records Information
  6. ^ "Sussex County - Government Structure". Sussex County Council. Archived from the original on October 26, 2006. Retrieved December 16, 2006. 
  7. ^ "Delaware Public School Districts for K-12 Education". Delaware Educational Directory. Delaware Department of Education. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  8. ^ Department of Education (2010-2011 school year). "List of Delaware Charter Schools". State of Delaware. Retrieved 2010-09-14. 
  9. ^ Sussex County, Delaware Private Schools
  10. ^ "Census 2000 U.S. Gazetteer Files: Counties". United States Census. Retrieved 2011-02-13. 
  11. ^ Mike Chalmers (May 22, 2006). "Looking to live in Sussex? Good luck". The News Journal. pp. A1, A6. Retrieved March 22. 
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  16. ^ FM Query - FM Radio Technical Information - Audio Division (FCC) USA
  17. ^ AM Query - AM Radio Technical Information - Audio Division (FCC) USA
  18. ^ a b Inside Radio/M Street
  19. ^ Station Information Profile

External links

Coordinates: 38°41′N 75°20′W / 38.68°N 75.34°W / 38.68; -75.34

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